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It's time to draw the line on discrimination exemptions in marriage legislation

By Rodney Croome - posted Monday, 27 November 2017

If any more discrimination exemptions make their way into marriage equality legislation, that legislation should be voted down and we should start again.

The Dean Smith bill already has more exemptions than most LGBTI Australians can tolerate.

Anything more would make a joke of our collective effort to achieve full equality and would not be worth the right to marry.


Let's start with how unpopular the Smith bill is and why.

A recent survey of 3,300 LGBTI Australians across all demographics showed around 70% opposition to those sections that allow discrimination by civil celebrants who nominate themselves as "religious" and by commercial services that are tied to religious organisations.

A majority said they would rather wait than accept marriage on these terms.

The concerns many LGBTI people have about the Smith bill relate to both principle and strategy.

The exemptions set bad precedents for allowing discrimination in the name of religion and they give new life to old prejudices about same-sex marriage being a threat to faith and freedom.

According to the above study, over 70% of LGBTI people believe the Smith exemptions will be used disproportionately against LGBTI people even though they don't exclusively target us.


Black letter lawyers defend the Smith bill saying nothing really changes because its exemptions echo existing exemption in the Marriage Act and other acts.

But they fail to understand that when you duplicate bad laws you give them a new lease of life to cause renewed harm.

Strategically, the bill's exemptions give too much away too early (who starts negotiations with their final position?), they may encourage the demand for further compromises, and it has never been clear how many votes are contingent on them.

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About the Author

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and national advocacy group, just.equal. He who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his LGBTI advocacy.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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